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Home > India > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report

Raikkonen keeps Ferrari on top in Spain

April 25, 2008 23:26 IST

Ferrari's [Images] world champion Kimi Raikkonen [Images] made a strong start to Formula One's European season by dominating Spanish Grand Prix free practice on Friday.

The Finn, championship leader after the opening three long-haul races, set a best time of one minute 20.649 seconds in the morning and then topped the afternoon timesheets in 1:21.935.

His Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa [Images], who scored his first points of the season when he won the previous race in Bahrain, was second fastest on a sunny morning but only fifth in the later session.

Instead, former champions Renault hinted at a possible improvement in form with Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet second ahead of Spanish team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso [Images].

Piquet's time was only 0.084 off Raikkonen's, although the Ferraris had been nearly half a second quicker than the best of the rest before lunch at a circuit familiar to all from extensive testing.

"We did the work we needed to do and had no problems," said Raikkonen. "As usual on Friday, it is hard to judge where we are up against our rivals and I think we can expect a very close fight."

The leading trio in the morning had all lapped inside Massa's 2007 pole time of 1:21.421, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton [Images] third fastest in 1:21.192.

The Briton was 11th in the afternoon, when the usual frontrunners concentrated more on longer runs with heavier fuel loads.

HAMILTON STRUGGLES

"We struggled with the balance of the car throughout both sessions today," said Hamilton. "There was too much oversteer and we tried a lot of different things to improve but didn't make the progress we wanted."

His Finnish team mate Heikki Kovalainen had a more frustrating day, with the team changing his car's gearbox between the sessions. He then stopped on track in the afternoon with a throttle control problem.

Raikkonen, a winner at the Circuit de Catalunya in 2005, leads BMW [Images] Sauber's Nick Heidfeld [Images] in the standings by three points.

Renault, struggling to match the leaders' pace in the opening races, have introduced a significant upgrade including a prominent fin to the engine cover.

However Alonso, who lapped sixth quickest in the opening session with Piquet seventh, warned on Thursday that it was unrealistic to expect him to appear on the podium this weekend and appeared no more optimistic a day later.

"It was a difficult day for everybody," said the Spaniard. "I'm sure everybody is having problems with the balance and grip of the car and it's the same for us ... we still need to work tonight because we were not extremely happy with the car."

Super Aguri, with their future in the balance after the collapse of a takeover deal, propped up the timesheets but drivers Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato did complete some laps.

"It's been a really difficult time, from the end of last year through to the start of this year," former Honda test driver Davidson said of the cash-strapped team's struggle to keep going.

"There are a lot of drivers up and down the grid, with much more experience than myself, who would have crumbled by this point."

© Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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